We often view money as a taboo subject of conversation.
I have noticed that this is changing, but I still find that most people don’t want to talk about money. As a musician, there isn’t a lot of financial content out there aimed at us. Financial wellness matters and is a huge part of our health. Money can be a massive cause of stress, and there’s no denying that there is an added layer as an entrepreneur.
As I learn more about being an artist and about personal finance, I’ve found essential crossovers between those two worlds. I hope the tips I’ve gathered below help open up the conversation between musicians and creatives when it comes to finance.
Build An Emergency Fund
With a career that can change and income that can evaporate in a heartbeat if a tour is cancelled, having a backup plan is an integral part of musicians’ financial health. That includes having an emergency fund, money that is set aside specifically for emergencies. I highly suggest having a separate savings account for this money, but keeping it in your regular savings account is also an option. It holds anywhere from 3-6 months of basic, bare-bones expenses. It’s what you could live off of if you needed. This fund includes rent, groceries, car payments, gas, phone bill, utilities, and any other fixed expenses that you need to survive.
Having this set aside is your safety net in case things go wrong. Having an emergency fund can keep your head above water and keep you from incurring debt if something happens and you lose your income. If it seems overwhelming, start with a goal of 1 month and work up from there! Ideally, creatives should aim for six months of savings because our jobs can often be less stable than other industries.
Understand Tax Write-Offs
I love sharing this tip with people. I save hundreds of dollars each year from music/small business-related tax write-offs. It feels like free money I can reinvest in my business or put towards my emergency fund. Every source of income matters when you are self-employed.
Have Multiple Sources of Income
Having multiple sources of income is almost always a plus. The more places you can have money coming in from, the more likely you will always have something going into your bank account. I also think the diversity of income is healthy for your mind, especially when starting out. It can ease the pressure off of having to pay all of your bills just from playing shows or selling merch.
Additional income can come from a day job, contract work you can pick up in the off-season, or another creative side hustle. Diversifying your income is always going to help your financial situation.
Register for Rights Organizations
This tip goes overlooked all the time. Each year, millions of dollars in royalties go unclaimed by artists who haven’t registered for all the appropriate royalty collection agencies. A simple google search will provide you with information on what agencies you should register for.
Agencies vary between countries. There are various procedures if you are a band member versus a solo artist, so make sure to find a comprehensive list for your specific situation. Researching these can bring in hundreds if not thousands of extra dollars by a few hours of researching and filling out forms. For Canadian artists – make sure you sign up for SOCAN (performing & reproduction rights) and MROC (neighbouring rights) for your royalties!
When you hear the word “negotiate,” you might imagine someone in a suit in a glass tower, but negotiating is an essential skill in all industries. Knowing your worth and knowing that you are paid accordingly is huge. Don’t lowball yourself. I always suggest talking to other artists in your same niche and career level to see what they are charging.
A year or so ago, I was chatting with a friend and realized that he was getting paid 2x what I was for the same service. I had been lowballing myself and losing out on a ton of income. Being flexible is still an important skill, but not being afraid to ask for what you are worth is important. This includes costs like food and drink, accommodations, etc. You are a business, and you need to run with your bottom line in mind. When I’ve asked for what I needed, I’ve almost always gotten it or have been able to find a good compromise.
Every musician is different, and our financial goals will all look a bit different. Still, at the core of it, we need to talk about money more openly. We continue to build our skill sets and become more financially stable through learning and sharing.
Let’s keep the conversation going and keep the fact that financial wellness is wellness at the front of our minds.
Feature Image of Katherine Fischer by Phoebe Say. Graphic design by Katherine Fischer.